A 20 Million Dollar Lesson

20 million US dollars may not be a crazy number to many successful corporate executives, entrepreneurs or trust fund babies who inherited a kingdom from their ancestors. For many people, with the right financial planning, it is good enough to live for life if not for generations.

Now imagine if you actually paid $20 million for a lesson. What do you want to get out of that very learning experience?

This is a story from a friend of mine. Though all the personal info is replaced or modified for privacy reason, the integrity of the story is by no means compromised. Let’s introduce our friend, Mr. X.

It was around 2001, right after the first dot com bubble. Mr. X was a young and gifted software programmer with a CS degree from Stanford. After working at a fortune 500 high tech company for a few short years, he was approached by his college friends to join an uprising, pre-IPO search engine company with the first letter starts with the G (let’s call it company G). Since Mr. X wasn’t actively looking, with the nothing to lose mindset, he went through the interview process.

Shortly after, he got an offer with a decent stock option package from company G. At that moment, he started to think seriously about the offer presented in front of him and seek advice from his family and friends.

Mr. X was raised in a very traditional family, his Dad was an engineer who dedicated his whole life to a fortune 100, his mom was a homemaker. After the first dot com bubble, Mr.X’s parents didn’t encourage his son to join another possibly bubble company and want him to stay focused on building up his career through the old-fashion corporate ladder.

His friends who tried to win him over, on the other hand, told him company G had tremendous market traction and the sky was the limit.

Undecided, Mr. X asked his colleague who worked together for a while in his current company for advice, and they all expressed concern about company G was just another come-and-go startup. Being heavily influenced by the people he lived and worked with, Mr. X passed the opportunity to join company G.

Years went by, company G turned out to be the legend in the high tech history, the friends from company G who failed to recruit Mr. X are all way beyond financially independent and living their dreams.

As for our Mr. X, he got laid off by the fortune 500 company during the financial crisis of 2008. He landed another job 6 months later, still working hard to save up for a retirement that is nowhere in sight.

Every once in a while, he would look up Company G’s stock price and dreamed about how much he could have made if he took the offer back then.

Comfort zone can be warm and deceptively cozy, but don’t let it blind us from seeing the next frontier in life.

We not only should do our job right inside our comfort zone, but think beyond this sandbox to do the right job. Don’t just hang around with people we live and work with on a daily basis, reach out to people who live outside of our comfort zone and take calculated risk to jump across the zone boundary when the time comes.

There is no guarantee, but that’s exactly what makes life worth living my friend.


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